Though it is still fairly mild for December, it is only a question of time before the full brunt of Winter hits us all, and landlords need to be ready for it!
Now is the time for contacting your tenants, checking that their properties are in good repair and wind/ weather tight. Ask your tenants whether they are having any problems; is there anything you can do to improve insulation? Make sure that radiators do not need bleeding and that pipes and storage tanks are lagged. Make sure tenants know where the stopcock is, how to operate the boiler and how to change the thermostat. Common sense and tenants should know any way, but it is worth checking that a hot summer has not made them forget!
Now is also the time to remind tenants that if they are visiting family and friends over the holiday period that they should keep the heating on, so pipes do not freeze and burst. This does not need to be at the normal temperature – a temperature of 15 degrees is recommended, or the heating could be timed to come on for a short period, morning and evening. Tenants may feel they do not want to pay for heating when they are not there – remind them that a burst, with the possibility of damage to their possessions, is worth the small cost of keeping the house heated at a low temperature.
If tenants are to be away for a lengthy period, (your tenancy agreement should stipulate that lengthy absences should be notified to the landlord and in Winter, this needs reiterating), it may be helpful if a neighbour could keep an eye on the property.
Do you have vulnerable tenants, who are elderly or in poor health? If so, take extra care with them. They are the ones most likely to worry about keeping the property heated.
Winter brings other issues, of condensation and rent arrears, but it is your property that is damaged by bursts and leaks, so do as advised – it will help the tenant and show you are a caring landlord, but it will also help you and avoid insurance claims.